The churchyard cross within the grounds of St Mary’s Church in Rhuddlan is wonderful. A beautiful 19th century shaft and crosshead, mounted upon the remains of a massive weather worn, perhaps 15th century, lichen covered three-stepped pedestal, the cross quite impressed Elias Owen - and well it might, with the first step some 4m in diameter.
‘The massiveness of the steps implies a superincumbent cross of more than ordinary size.’
Elias Owen, Old Stone Crosses of the Vale of Clwyd, p. 152
It would seem that the steps once held a sundial - which given their size must have either been swallowed by their stature, or itself been something quite exceptional. The reuse of churchyard crosses as sundials was not unusual, and can be seen throughout north east Wales - a sort of compromise in retaining the ancient shaft in a post Reformation Britain. The sundial was removed, and for some time remained forlorn at the base of the steps, when the new shaft and crosshead was raised.
Curiously, the cross is sited a few steps east of the east wall of the church. This, in itself, is rare but not unheard of. In their long lives, medieval crosses have often been peripatetic, and this perhaps has been the fate of Rhuddlan’s Churchyard Cross.
‘To the glory of God and in loving memory of William Shipley Conwy and Charlotte Rowley, 1873’
The dedication to the base of the new shaft remembers the children of Lt-Col William Shipley and Charlotte Williams Wynn (of the Wynnstay Williams Wynns) of Bodrhyddan Hall on the outskirts of the town. The family can trace their line back to Coniers (Conias), who are likely to have arrived in the Rhuddlan area during the Edwardian invasion of 1277. The cross is stunning, to be sure, but is unlikely to bear much resemblance to the original.
Elias Owen, Old Stone Crosses of the Vale of Clwyd, London and Oswestry, (1886)
RCAHMC, An Inventory of the Ancient Monuments In Wales: Denbigh, London (1914)
A.Rimmer, Ancient Stone Crosses of England, (London), (1875)
R. J. Silvester, R. Hankinson, Medieval Crosses and Crossheads, Scheduling Enhancement, CPAT Report No. 1036, (2010)
R. J. Silvester, Welsh medieval freestanding crosses, Archaeologia Cambrensis, 162 (2013)
A.Vallance, Old CRosses and Lychgates, London, (1920)